Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Official Panerai Luminor Marina Logo Pam5 Op 6617 WristwatchPanerai Pam233 Luminor 1950 8 Days Gmt Acciaio 44mm N-series 2011.Panerai Pam 244 J Luminor Gmt Automatic 40mm Stainless Steel - Boxes/papers Panerai Luminor 1950 Chronograph Rattrapante 44mm Pam 213Panerai Luminor Pam 72 Automatic El-primero Chronograph Steel/titanium 40mm $1nrExcellent Panerai Luminor Submersible Pam24 Op 6771 Mens Wrist Watch M171/800Panerai Radiomir Black Seal Pam 292 Ceramic Pvd Automatic Brand New W/ B&p $1nr!Panerai Ferrari Rattrapante F6657 Stainless Steel Automatic No Reserve $1 Start!Mens Panerai Ferrari Chronograph Automatic * Diamonds Everywhere *-display ModelMens Stainless Steel Panerai Luminor Marina Black Arabic Diamond 44mm Pam Op6567Panerai Radiomir Black Seal Pam 287 AutomaticPanerai Pam 28 B. Power Reserve. T Dial. Box & Papers!!! Collector’s Piece!Panerai Radiomir Black Seal Mens Watch Pam00183 Genuine Panerai Polished Stainless Steel Wrist Watch Deployment Buckle In BoxOfficine Panerai Firenze 1860 Chrono 1000 Stainless Steel Watch Diver's ProPanerai 351 Luminor Titanium Pam00351 Wrist WatchPanerai Firenze 1860 Automatic Luminor Marina WristwatchGenuine Panerai Set,travel Box,cleaning Cloth+ 3 Watch Guards With Strap SaversHorween Leather Distressed Dublin Panerai Watch Strap 20/20mm Teal Thread Assolutamente Strap For PaneraiHamann Panerai Automatic Wristwatch Limited Edition Bmw Porsche Ferrari MercedesPanerai Oem 44mm Black Rubber With Deployant BuckleBlue Panerai HatPanerai Pam 270 Luminor 1950 10 Day Pwer Reserve Stanless Steel, 44mm KHorween Leather Distressed Dublin Panerai Watch Strap 20mmPanerai Deployment / Clasp Buckle Wiht Push Bottuns 22 Mm Officine Panerai Rubber Strap Panerai Oem Leather StrapPanerai Pam 270 Luminor 1950 10 Days Gmt Automatic J Series 44mm Steel ! Mint !Panerai Pam 00186 Luminor 44"arktos" H085/500Officine Panerai Dark Brown Leather Watch Band Crd 22mm Cucito A ManoPanerai Oem Plastic Push Pin ToolAmmo Vintage!24mm Italy Assolutamente Leather Watch Band Strap&clasp For PaneraiRare Vintage Op Panerai Plexiglass Sandwich DialWenger Brigade Swiss Military Watch (panerai Style) 7925x/tPanerai Officine Dark Brown Leather Band/strap Italy NewMestiery 24mm Italian Cowhide Leather Olive Green Watch Strap For Panerai Mestiery 24mm Embossed Carbon Fiber Pattern On Leather Watch Strap For PaneraiMestiery 24mm Embossed Carbon Fiber Pattern On Leather Watch Strap For PaneraiOfficine Panerai Italy Watch Band Black Rubber 24mmRare Vintage Panerai 6152/1 CrownNew Officine Panerai Blue Cap Hat Cassic Yachts Challenge Paa0145424mm Canvas Zulu Strap For Diver/military/tactical/airforce Fit Panerai GreenPanerai Ferrari Watch Stand DisplayPanerai 44mm Black Rubber Deployant Strap AuthenticOfficine Panerai Costumer Service Travel Case Box For Watch Storage Panerai 24mm Black Calf Rugby Watch BandRare Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge HatMestiery 24mm Italian Cowhide Leather Olive Green Watch Strap For Panerai26mm Ss Op Logo Brush Finish For Diver/tactical/banker/broker Fit Panerai MarinaMestiery 24mm Italian Cowhide Leather Chocolate Brown Watch Strap For Panerai

Recent News: Panerai Watches

Source: Google News

Panerai Luminor 1950 Sealand Year of the Goat (PAM 848) (blog), December 16th

In 2014 it was the Year of the Horse. In 2015, we get the goat. The Officine Panerai Luminor 1950 Sealand Year of the Goat (PAM 848), a 100 pc limited edition featuring a hunter case decorated with gold-inlaid hand-engraving, will continue Panerai's...Read more

Is this Panerai watch auction set to smash world records?, December 5th

Horology's most eager and exacting eyes (and sharpest bidding elbows) are firmly set on Paris at the moment, thanks to an upcoming auction exclusively devoted to rare pieces from historical house Panerai. Run by auction house Artcurial (which...Read more

Exceptional collection of vintage Panerai watch designs to go on sale in Paris, December 4th

Acquiring vintage timepieces can be a tricky business - as with any specialist collectable, if you are not in the know, how do you know where to look? Independent auction houses are a good place to start and the best ones are increasingly savvy to the...Read more

The Watcher: NFL Legend Steve Hutchinson Talks Watches
Esquire (blog), December 3rd

Now retired, Hutchinson does many things, none of which The Watcher cares about except wearing watches. ESQUIRE.COM: What watch are you wearing right now, Steve? Steve Hutchinson: Right now, I have my Panerai 217. It's 47 mm, with a left-handed ...Read more

Panerai Unveil New Luminor Watch Ahead of SIHH 2015, December 2nd

Italian luxury watchmakers Panerai have launched a new addition to its iconic Luminor range ahead of the 2015 SIHH watch fair in Geneva next month. The Luminor 1950 – 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Ceramica boasts a range of impressive ...Read more

« Panerai Only » in Paris
World Tempus, November 28th

The vintage watches date from 1930 to 1950, the period when Panerai was official supplier of diving instruments and watches for the Italian navy and did not produce timepieces for the general public. “Pre-Vendôme” models comprise the first Panerai...Read more

If you want an Omega or Panerai watch, don't buy an Apple Watch
AppAdvice, November 24th

Do you own a Moto 360, or another Android Wear device? Then you probably know that you can download faces that can make your wearable device look like an Omega, Rolex, or other high-end watch. Apple Watch users won't have the same opportunity, ...Read more

The Panerai PAM 590
World Tempus (press release), November 23rd

Panerai developed a water resistant watch with two superimposed dials: one was hollowed out with large 12, 3, 6 and 9 numerals and the other was covered with radium. They were fitted into an oversized case that was 47mm in diameter and housed a Rolex ...Read more